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Feds' social-finance pledge turns Canada from 'laggard' to leader, experts say

Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos makes an announcement at a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 25, 2018. An almost $800 million federal foray into help charities and non-profits find new ways to finance the delivery of social services is set to be one of the largest such effort in the world. A government-struck panel over the summer recommended the Liberals provide up to $500 million in financing for groups who provide services such as housing the homeless or skills training for hard-to-employ individuals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

OTTAWA — A Canadian attempt to help charities and non-profits find new ways to finance social services is set to be one of the largest such efforts in the world.

A government-struck panel over the summer recommended the Liberals provide up to $500 million in financing for groups that provide services such as housing the homeless or skills training for hard-to-employ individuals.

The government’s economic update this week went beyond that, promising $755 million over 10 years.

Internal government documents from this fall note that similar funds overseas, scaled to Canada’s population and economy, would have about $400 million in government seed money.

Social finance sees charities and non-profits partner with private investors to test new ways of delivering social services. The idea is that public dollars can bring in or increase private involvement in charity projects, or pay for performance if the experiments succeed.

People who work in the nascent sector domestically say a decade of federal funding should lead to a point where public cash will no longer be needed because the system will sustain itself.

The Canadian Press